We urge the Porterville California City Council to reverse its explicit and implicit rejection of its rights-affirming 2001 Resolution in the Wake of the Patriot Act. Your September 2008 Resolution asking constituents to vote to remove existing rights from a minority of people has and is damaging the City’s valuable reputation, and has sparked a movement that has become national in scope.
This weekend is the National Equality March in Washington, DC – in support of the right of everyone to have equal protection under the laws. All relevant laws, particularly those laws related to marriage, military service, and health care are targeted.
Organized in a scant few months, and bringing the promise of more to come, this March has its roots right here in rural Tulare County, California and Porterville in particular.
In September 2008, during the heated campaign to remove existing marriage rights from a minority of our state’s citizens, Porterville Councilman Brian Ward introduced a homophobic Resolution. Ward, in his day job as a licensed School Psychologist attending to the mental health concerns of young adolescents at a local middle school, should know better. Ward’s Mormon background inspired him to introduce the Resolution, his background outweighing his professional ethics and common-sense reasons to not get involved.
Passed unanimously 5-0, with minimal public debate, the Resolution put the City on record as urging locals to vote in favor of removing civil rights by creating a new State Constitutional Amendment : “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid and recognized in California.” Porterville’s City Council was – and remains – the only Council in the entire state to take a stand against the rights of its own constituents.
News reports in the local newspaper of the vote were the first notice most of the public had of what the Council had done, and the vote was met with immediate strong protest. Councilmen Cameron Hamilton, Pedro Martinez, Felipe Martinez and Pete McCracken heard an earful at each public meeting regarding their position. Over a year later, the local protests show no sign of abating.
In the meantime, Porterville and Tulare County as a whole voted more than 75% as the Council requested, the Amendment barely passed, and was ordained as a proper amendment by the State Supreme Court.
As a direct result, Civil Rights of a minority of people were in fact taken away by a vote of the people: The day before the election people of the same gender, asserting rights affirmed by the State Supreme Court just earlier in 2008 were able to get married, and exercise all the rights of a married couple available under State law. The day after the election, those rights were most certainly no longer available to those seeking a same sex marriage.
Out of the Council’s action and the Prop 8 campaign’s aftermath there quickly arose a Rally in support of restoration of rights removed. The location of the rally was significant, as the Central Valley counties, including Tulare County, had voted heavily in favor of removal of rights, and tipped the balance of the overall election.
By the time the State Supreme Court ruled in May 2009 that the Amendment was in fact valid and hence n effect, Robin McGehee, a professor at Visalia’s (Tulare County) College of the Sequoias had had enough.
Organizing the “Meet in the Middle” rally in Fresno with the zeal of the proverbial woman scorned, her efforts fired notice directly into the heart of the Central Valley that the mean-spirited, anti-American politics of the anti-gay crowd will not be allowed to stand.
This weekend’s March on Washington stands as a direct extension of the Meet in the Middle event in Fresno. As a region in a larger nation, the Central Valley is far from alone in its rampant ballot-box homophobia. The March for Equality will display increasing organization to defend, defeat, and reverse attacks on civil rights by the radical, anti-American politics of the Porterville City Councils and Porterville Voters of the entire country.
At the very first opportunity after its September vote, and regularly since then, Council was told in no uncertain terms that Porterville had made itself a target, likely to be remembered negatively in history in the same ways that cities such as Selma Alabama are remembered as clarion calls to action against the vilest excesses of the Jim Crow era.
This weekend, as they read and view news of the March, all Americans, but especially our local officials and citizens who have voted, or might vote to take civil rights away from people ought to reconsider their logic.
Just for a week, live life with an open mind and try to understand, truly understand, why what you are doing is not American, why it is not based on either law with its precedents we are bound by, why it is not based on historical trends over an entire millennium towards freedom for all in our society.
Instead , learn how anti-gay Acts are indeed fear and hate driven, and hence unnecessary. There is nothing to fear except what is in your own hearts and minds. Observe and take to heart that the supporting logic is entirely based on Church teachings which have no place in secular government.
In 2001 the Councilmen of Porterville voted a resolution affirming the civil rights of all in the wake of 9-11 and the Patriot Act. They ought to spend this weekend, and in fact every waking minute, pondering what you have now wrought on your impoverished City. In the space of only 7 years, they have abandoned a position of Patriotic leadership and removed some people from those who they wished to have all freedoms.
Porterville’s leaders have never explained publicly their reason for the change of heart regarding freedom and rights for all, why LGBT people were included in the 2001 resolution and then excluded explicitly in 2008. It is beyond time for them to explain their thinking, if only to reassure their constituents that they would not take away the rights of other minorities given the merest opportunity to do so.
The Town of Porterville, and other towns who regularly vote most to remove rights from others, are among the most impoverished in the entire nation. Watch the news this weekend not with the idea of disgust of “fags” deigning to enter Council Chambers to beg for alms and rights you never intend to grant. Rights are yours to grant or take away, and they are most certainly not “alms”.
Instead view this weekend’s activities as a chance to show your interest in new economic opportunity to the eyes of the nation and the world. This is your chance to choose your economic future – inclusively with all, or exclusively with like-minded rights-deniers.
Porterville, and similar Cities and their residents, despite current troubles, you have something to offer and a future. The rest of your State, your Country, wants to re-integrate you into the broader modern economy, instead of seeing you continue to isolate yourself with ill-educated efforts to remove rights. In no small part, your economic issues are due to your unwillingness to see all people as Equal, but that does not have to be.
Do not let your economic brand, meaning the way you are perceived by others, be recorded in history as one of action on hate, as happened to Selma Alabama in the Civil Rights-era. Do not lead your City to economic isolation and desolation. Instead do lead for plans on a better future for all of the local people.
Porterville Council, decide this weekend to restore the Resolution vote of 2001: re-assert and re-affirm the freedom and rights of all people equally. Teach and and lead your people to internalize, to truly with their hearts believe and live the terms of the Resolution.
Only then will you begin to see your economic development efforts bear fruit.
Realize that this weekend, the world will see the current state of a national movement, not even one year removed from the Prop 8 Vote in California, a national movement energized and birthed in your City and County neighborhoods, indeed in your own Council Chambers.
Equality is assured in history.
The only question is when.
Porterville City Council and others in the same boat, do not let your legacy be that you chose to work to block equality for all while forsaking the economic vitality of your City and its Citizens for countless future generations.
Provide your City and Cities with a legacy of equality and innovation immediately.